Here’s Past Deadline from the Oct. 24/13 issue of The Perth Courier.

Great expectations

 Recently, it was Girlchild’s birthday, an event that filled me with dread.

I know that sounds awful. Please let me explain.

birthday table

While I love both of my children dearly and their birthdays are a chance for me to reflect fondly upon the momentous and joyous occasions of their births, I haven’t really recovered yet – er, I mean, I don’t really enjoy their special days as much as I did when they were little. (Because it’s all about me, you know.)

I blame great expectations for this. No, not the famous Charles Dickens novel – I would use Title Case and italics for that.

I’ll explain by telling you about the kind of kid I was, which can sometimes still be seen in the adult I am today.

Christmas and birthdays were always the same – the lead up was intense. Great expectations. To this day I prefer Christmas Eve over Christmas itself: the anticipation of the kids and of family gatherings. It was the same with birthdays: you’d count down the days, you’d go to bed excited about turning a year older…kinda magical. (I definitely haven’t felt excited about turning a year older for a loooong time.)

Sometimes it’s hard not to build things up in our heads to the point we are expecting the Perfect Magical Day. Guess what? Perfect Magical Days are really hard to come by. Have you noticed?

Maybe, for example, on Christmas Day or birthdays you anticipated a particular gift and…you didn’t get it. Or maybe you got it, but it wasn’t exactly the right thing. Or, one of my favourites, you got it but it was broken, so you couldn’t play with it.

To make things even worse, I was the type of kid who would get a gift and if it wasn’t quite right or it was broken, I would not only be disappointed, but I would feel badly for the person who gave it to me because they might be disappointed, too.


Fast forward 30-some years and here I am trying to navigate (within reason) the great expectations of my kids. We don’t want to spoil them (we’ll let you know how that turns out), but we want them to enjoy their special days.

Up until age four or five, this was pretty easy. Little ones take great delight in almost everything, including the box that held the gift. They live in the moment.

Then they learn to talk and go to school and get sucked into kid-geared media and advertising and along come those great expectations. Suddenly special occasions are built up in their minds to be life-altering events that will map the success of the year ahead…or something about planets aligning or some such thing.

And here we are. The kids are older, the expectations are greater and the pressure is on. A birthday comes along and I take a deep breath and hope all the little details required to make it at least an Almost Perfect Magical Day come together. I might also buy a bottle of wine.

So when the much-coveted toy of the moment breaks mere hours after it is unwrapped, as they are wont to do these days (a sad reflection on our times), therefore making it the Worst Birthday Ever, at least we have the wine – er, I mean, at least we are mentally prepared for it.

All of that said we still manage to make out okay (depending on who you ask). One of the highlights of the recent celebration was the birthday meal. “What would you like for your special birthday supper, Girlchild?” I asked. “The macaroni and cheese you make,” she replied.

Yes! Sometimes it’s easier than expected to please.


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